The Literate Chef

Posts Tagged ‘Vagliagli’

Is it Autumn Yet?

In General Articles on October 21, 2017 at 10:45 AM

With the Harvest Moon making its recent appearance in the New England sky and Halloween a few weeks distant, the feel of Autumn should have been nigh; although based on our 70° weather, it’s propinquity might be a matter of conjecture. In any case like the Ant in the fable of The Ant and the Grasshopper, we thought it best to be prepared, so two weekends ago we did a bit of cooking, laying in some comfort meals for the eventual cool weather.

The key is making big batches of hearty meals that can be pre-portioned, then defrosted and heated up with little bother on those dark and chilly nights when you want to do nothing except curl up on the couch and watch Netflix.

So here they are, one old standby and two new ones: Uncle Fred’s Lentil Soup; Wild Boar Stew and Wild Boar Ragu. The Lentil Soup is an annual standby and an homage to my godfather, Fred. The Stew and the Ragu are the result of serendipity.

Half a century ago there was a restaurant on the Eastside of Manhattan called Friar Tuck’s. It was located on 2nd or 3rd Avenue, around 54th or 55th Street. It was there that I was introduced to the delights of wild game, specifically Medallions of Young Wild Boar.

Recently I received an email from D’Artagnan, a specialty butcher in Manhattan who does a great job of delivering hard to find cuts of meat to your front door (see Where have all the Butchers Gone?) The email advertised a Shoulder of Wild Boar weighing between 3 and 5 lbs. That got me thinking about Friar Tuck’s, as well as remembering a fabulous meal of Pappardelle with Wild Boar Ragu, that I had in a Tuscan hill town, a number of years ago.   

The Shoulder of Wild Boar, delivered by FedEx two days after placing my order online, was 4lbs. I decided to split it in half and make a Stew and a Ragu. Portioning our the Ragu and the Stew should produce 10 individual meals. The Lentil Soup should provide an additional 10 or so individual meals.

I hope that Netflix is ready for some heavy duty autumn binge-watching!




Tuscan Ceci Bean Soup

In Recipes, Soups, Vegetarian Meals on December 5, 2013 at 6:20 PM

Tuscan Ceci Bean Soup

Tuscan Ceci Bean Soup

Preparation Time 40 Minutes, Serve 4

A few weeks ago, while taking stock of the items in our larder, I discovered, hidden away on a back shelf, 3 cans of Goya Garbanzos, which were due to reach their expiration date in a few months. Whether or not an expiration date imprinted on a can should be believed is irrelevant; as in this case, the serendipitous discovery of this legume pretty much determined that they would be consumed long before then.

As I wrote several years ago, Grandma Loved Ceci Beans, or Chick Peas, or Garbanzos, as they are also known, depending upon your ethnicity. I never appreciated them until on a visit to Tuscany some years back I devoured a sublime Ceci Bean Soup in a little restaurant in the hill town of Vagliagli, where we had rented a villa with two other couples. This soup has been on my mind ever since. Now was the time to act.


1/2 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium onion, finely minced
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 cans Garbanzos, rinsed and drained
1/2 tbsp. Kosher Salt
1 quart of low-sodium chicken broth
1 tbsp. Hot Hungarian Paprika (note)
2 cups of chopped Kale (add 4 cups of Kale, leaves only, to food processor in batches and chop)
1 small can tomato paste (6 oz.)


1. In a three-quart pot, heat olive oil, add garlic and onion and lightly sauté until translucent.
2. Add Garbanzos and mix well.
3. Add salt.
4. Add chicken broth and bring to boil.
5. Boil on medium high for 15 minutes.
6. Remove 3 cups of the beans, purée in food processor and add back to pot.
7. Add paprika and tomato paste
8. Add Kale and cook on med-low for 15 minutes

Note: If you are unable to locate Hot Hungarian Paprika, you can get close to it by using Regular Paprika and Cayenne Pepper in a 3:1 ratio.

Serve with grated Parmigiano – Reggiano and Extra Virgin Olive Oil.


Grandma Loved Ceci Beans

In General Articles on October 23, 2011 at 6:09 PM

Grandma, who crossed the Atlantic 101 years ago on the Principe di Piemonte, with three children aged 7 and younger, loved ceci beans (chech-ee), which are also known as chick peas and garbanzo beans. As a callow youth with an unsophisticated palate, I hated them. To me, they were mealy and dry and I never tasted them again until about 10 years ago, when I had a ceci-based soup at a restaurant in Vagliagli, in the Chianti district of Tuscany.  After that, I began to appreciate their texture, flavor and adaptability to a variety of uses. One such use is in Garbanzo Bean Soup.

Recently, I had occasion to have lunch with some friends at the Indian Road Café, in my old neighborhood of Inwood in northern Manhattan.  I ordered a delicious shrimp sandwich, which came with a side salad of chick peas dressed with pesto. Having some pesto sauce remaining from the batch of Uncle Fred’s Homemade Pesto Sauce that I had made several weeks ago, as well as several cans of garbanzos in the pantry, I had an epiphany and headed out to the market to pick up a red onion, cucumber and lemon. The first of two of those items were visible in the salad as well as the chick peas and pesto, but I had no idea about the lemon, it just seemed the right addition.

The serendipitous result was Insalata de Ceci, named in honor of Grandma, who I believe would have loved this dish. The moral of this tale is ‘Listen to your grandma, as she is always right!’

Pasta Fagioli or Pasta Fazool?

In General Articles on April 18, 2011 at 2:17 PM

In June 2000, my wife and I along with two other couples, friends of many years with whom we had traveled extensively, spent a glorious week in a rented villa called Solaria, which is located in the Tuscan hilltown of Vagliagli. Vagliagli is a small town about 9 miles north of Siena on the road to Radda in Chianti and Castellina in Chianti, two larger and better-known towns. Each day, we piled into our rented van and explored the numerous hilltowns in the vicinity, beside the two mentioned above, and the city of Siena. These included: Colle di Val d’Elsa, Cortona, Monteriggioni, San Gimignano, Volterra and, of course, Florence (Firenze). We never had a bad meal or bad wine in any one of them and the weather was perfect the entire week.

When the rental was over, one couple went on to Germany and the other returned to the States, while my wife and I took off for Venice by train, where we planned to stay for a full, glorious week. We had been to Venezia on two previous occasions, both for very brief visits. One was in the summer of 1970 on our first trip to Italy, and at that time, we stayed for only two days. The second was even shorter; one bleak wintery day in November 1997, when we took the train up from Florence, where we were visiting our younger daughter during her semester abroad. On that occasion, we left Santa Maria Novella Station on a 5:30 am train and returned there about 1:00 am, having spent only 10 hours in Venice and either on trains or waiting for them the remainder of the time.

Visiting Venice the first time, we fell in love with the La Serenisima and afterwards read extensively both fiction and non-fiction books centered around its people, history and architecture. This longer third visit provided us with the perfect opportunity to explore many of its treasures at a leisurely pace. On one of those excursions, through the alleys of Dorsoduro, we came upon an unexpected treasure which resulted in another favorite family recipe. We had spent the morning at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, which fronts on the Grand Canal. I had read a review in Gourmet Magazine on a fabulous Venetian seafood restaurant, Antica Trattoria La Furatola located at 2870a Calle Lunga de San Barnaba, Dorsoduro, less than ½ mile from the museum. We were hungry after touring the museum and from the map thought this close by. However, after a frustrating 45 minutes of innumerable twists and turns through alleys and piazzas, crossing and re-crossing canals, we finally came upon the restaurant, only to discover that it was closed for lunch on Wednesdays.

But our disappointment quickly turned to serendipity, as we discovered a tiny, unassuming treasure just down the alley from La Furatola. We had walked right past it earlier but failed to take notice, as we were so focused on finding La Furatola. When we walked through the door of Enoteca Osteria – Sandro and inhaled the aromas emanating from the kitchen, we wondered if it would be a suitable place for lunch. Any hesitation we might have felt was quickly removed by Sandro’s warm welcoming smile. He asked if we would like to sit in the back courtyard, which we welcomed since it was a beautiful sunny, blue sky day. I asked him what smelled so good; he said it was his Pasta Fagioli, which may be known more familiarly as Pasta Fazool!

We shared a bottle of chilled white wine from the Friuli region and I ordered the Pasta Fagioli, while my wife ordered pasta with gorgonzola and zucchini. Sandro’s Pasta Fagioli was unlike any Pasta Fazool I had ever eaten prior to that revelatory day. First, it lacked the tomato base that was such a prevalent ingredient in my mother’s recipe; second, it was redolent with herbs, which seemed to me to be sage and rosemary; and third there was a distinct salted pork flavor, which I thought might be prosciutto. Later, after much experimentation and consulting of several cookbooks (ones which were focused more on Northern Italian style cooking, rather than the Southern Italian style that I had grown up with) I developed my recipe for Pasta e Fagioli alla Veniziana. I hope one day to return to Venice and to thank Sandro for inspiring me to try to develop this version of Pasta Fazoole, which is a favorite meal among our family and friends.

Another big favorite in our home is a pasta dish that I developed after a visit to that ‘famous city by the bay’. Read all about it in: I Found This Dish in San Francisco, High on Russian Hill it Called to Me.

%d bloggers like this: